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Embracing winter: Nice weather brings out the crowds in Lake City

Sammy the Snowman cheers for participants during the Ice Golf Open held on the ice in Sunset Bay near Lake House Restaurant for Lake City Winterfest 2019. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 7
A hang glider pilot lands on Lake Pepin on Feb. 2, 2019, as part of a friendly competition to see who could land closest to a target on the ice. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 7
Beautiful weather greeted cross country skiers and snowshoers on a trail with 500 luminaries on Saturday evening during Winterfest in Lake City. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 7
Hang glider pilots set up a temporary airport with wind socks on the ice of Lake Pepin near Ohuta Beach in Lake City. The closest to land on a target won. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 7
Riders set out on the fat tire bike tour held Saturday morning, Feb. 2, 2019, in Lake City. Steve Gardiner / RiverTowhn Multimedia5 / 7
Fat tire cyclists listen to directions about the two three-mile loops that were groomed on the Jewel Golf Course in Lake City during Winterfest Feb. 1-2, 2019. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 7
A late-afternoon fog set an eerie backdrop for fireworks launched on Saturday evening, Feb. 2, 2019, in Lake City. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 7

LAKE CITY — After being indoors for three days during the polar vortex, residents of Lake City were joyous to get out and participate in the events of Winterfest 2019, held at various venues around the area on Feb. 1-2.

"The weather turned around for us," said Ron Hooge, organizer of Winterfest 2019. "It was just about a perfect weekend to be out in the winter."

Hooge said attendance was up over the numbers from past years, and one very popular event was ice golfing, which took place on an evergreen-lined course plowed on Lake Pepin. Players used golf clubs or hockey sticks to hit a tennis ball around the course.

"We're very pleased with the turnout for the first Lake Pepin Ice Golf Open," said John Hutchinson, who organized the golfing. "We're estimating that we had about 300 players, and they were all ages from 2 to 78. They all came off the nine-hole course with a smile and a very fun experience."

Another popular event was moonlight cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Hok-si-la Park. Volunteers placed 500 luminaries around the loop and groomed the snow for skiing. Over 150 people made the trek on an evening when temperatures were nearly 60 degrees warmer than just two days earlier.

At least 250 people packed the Sportsman's Club for the Winterfest Dance Party, and hundreds crowded around Ohuta Beach Park and along the riverwalk to watch the fireworks on Saturday evening.

Other events throughout the weekend included a fat tire bike tour at Jewel Golf Course, a bookwalk at the library, lunch and bingo at the American Legion Club, a bowling tournament at Port 104, a hotdish cookoff at the VFW, a hang gliding contest near Ohuta Beach in which participants tried to see who could land closest to a target on the ice.

Hooge talked to several business owners and said that "the businesses were busy throughout the day and into the night. One of the bar owners said the turnout was close to the Friday night of Water Ski Weekend. It was crazy."

He was happy to see all the people that "helped support the businesses in town that support us and make it fun for everybody," he said. "It turned out to be great all around."

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

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